When recently appointed Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Secretary General Ndaba Gaolatlhe approached the podium to deliver a solidarity message at the last week’s Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU) tri-annual elective congress, delegates erupted in cheers.
Gaolatlhe had to delay deliberating his solidarity message because almost every delegate stood up and tearfully broke into the song that the late UDC founding president, Gomolemo Motswaledi loved, Morena o ba etele.
Interestingly, when Botswana Congress Party (BCP) Secretary General Dr Kesitegile Gobotswang stood up earlier on, some in the crowd jeered at him. When Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Sechele Sechele approached the podium jeers came from all corners of the hall.
The three political parties were given an opportunity to deliver solidarity messages at the BOSETU tri-annual elective congress at the Palapye International Convention Centre (PICC) last week.
The reception received by Gaolatlhe was more telling. BOSETU members displayed an umbrella sign when Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) Labour Secretary Johnson Motshwarakgole asked delegates if they know which party to vote for.
“A le santse le tshwere moono?” beamed Motshwarakgole when giving solidarity message from the Amalgamated Government and Parastatal Manual Workers Union (NAGPMWU) to which the BOSETU delegates responded by showing the umbrella sign.
As BOSETU delegates lifted their hands in the air and showed an umbrella sign, Motshwarakgole added: “Ee moono ke one oo.”
The scene, at Palapye does not appear to bode well for the BCP and worse still for the ruling party. On October 24, the ruling party will face what could be the country’s most competitive election yet.
Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), led by former BDP stalwarts, will be participating in the election against the ruling party for the first time after forming a coalition with Botswana People’s Party (BPP) and Botswana National Front (BNF) to form UDC.
It became crystal clear that the agony suffered by civil servants during the 2011 national strike is still fresh for a lot of workers.
Though it seems that the UDC has won the hearts and minds of some of the working class, the question is: Will public service support drawn from not less than 90 000 eligible voters translate into votes for the UDC?
“It is encouraging and humbling to see that the public service believes in us. But the battle is not won yet,” said an elated Gaolatlhe in an interview with The Patriot on Sunday on the sidelines of the BOSETU tri-annual congress last Tuesday.
Gaolatlhe said the UDC will not be carried away by the support. He said the UDC will continue to canvass support every weekend in order to end the BDP’s grip on power it has enjoyed for over four decades.
The BCP has always asserted that it is a pro-labour party and counts on a lot of government workers supporting them. Likewise the BDP has maintained that it has very good labour policies that have improved the lot of workers. However, the ruling party goes for election with the 2011 labour strike still fresh in the minds of workers and there are fears that it might affect the fortunes of the party.
Efforts to get comment from the BCP and BDP were futile by press time.